Victories in Court Didn’t Mean We Won

When I started this internship in May, I wanted to explore public defense and everything it had to offer. The people that made my internship much more than just a summer gig were a team of incredibly passionate lawyers, social workers, intake specialists, and investigators. They came in every morning ready to tackle the storm ahead, a storm that was always there. I got front row seats to murder trials and then backstage passes to lawyers decompressing in the break room. While I enjoyed learning about all the incredible work the Rhode Island Public Defender’s Office does, it did help me realize I was not interested in this field.

The majority of our clients live below the poverty line, suffer from mental illnesses, and are repeat offenders. Solving their current legal issue is a band-aid to a much larger wound that is not only affecting the city of Providence but cities everywhere. For this reason, my career goals are still centered around the legal field but at a much “higher level”. While that “higher level” remains undefined, I want to attend law school after graduating from Boston College. All I know at the moment is that I want to be able to address this issues that our clients struggle with. Helping them win a court case never meant the bigger issue was solved,  and that bothered me all summer.

Even though my goals and interests shifted in the middle of my internship, I still gained an invaluable amount of knowledge while working. During my third or fourth week there, I started to realize a lot of our clients listed schizophrenia as a disability. I was perplexed because I was previously led to believe that schizophrenia was a very noticeable and hindering mental disorder. I engaged in a discussion with one of our social workers about it that resulted in an office-wide lecture about the different levels of schizophrenia, the history of diagnosing it, and how/why some clients might be wrongly diagnosed yet given treatment for it. Learning about this disorder did not necessarily change how we treated our clients but helped us understand cases better.

Although I am no longer interested in public defense, this summer was incredible, and I have the Boston College Career Center to thank for it. Without the support of the Career Center, I would not have been able to accept this internship which taught me an incredible amount about the justice system in Rhode Island and my desire for my future.

Written by Raf Torres, BC Class of 2018

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